PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE — Nederland artists share UIL Outstanding Performer stories

Published 12:20 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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NEDERLAND — Three Nederland youth reached the peaks of success, setting them above others across Texas.

The students include Jhon Olimba, a 2024 graduate of Nederland High School; incoming senior Malory McDuffie; and incoming senior Abigail Dunchamp.

The trio were selected Outstanding Performers at the 2024 University Interscholastic League State Solo and Ensemble contest in Austin.

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Gary Janecek, fine arts director for Nederland ISD, said the two-day contest is where students from all over the state come to perform.

“In order to advance to this state contest, the student must have memorized and made a 1st Division on a Class 1 solo at the Region Contest. Each judge gets to choose one soloist each day to award as Outstanding Performer,” Janecek said. “This is the highest honor a student can achieve at the contest.”

Jhon Olimba

Olimba, a trumpet player, didn’t believe it was possible for him to earn Outstanding Performer.

He is humbled by the honor.

“I feel I have accomplished something,” Olimba said. “Not a lot of people that day did. I am kind of proud and also felt I didn’t earn it.”

Olimba has been playing the trumpet since the sixth grade, and it wasn’t long before his skills became evident.

By eighth grade he began to get noticed for his performance, and that’s when the seed to be a better musician was planted. Two years later when he was a sophomore he started seeing the fruits of his labor when he came close to competing at the state level.

He was very disappointed — one chair from being chosen. He began preparing himself for state for his junior year.

He was successful and earned a spot at the state level.

“We went to San Antonio and I realized it was a pretty big thing,” Olimba said, explaining he hadn’t fully grasped the magnitude of being named to UIL State band.

Then came Outstanding Performer in his senior year.

Olimba doesn’t have family members who are musicians. They emigrated from the Philippines when he was young.

Olimba plans to attend Lamar University and major in music education. He plans to become a band director.

Mallory McDuffie

An incoming senior at Nederland High School, McDuffie plays clarinet in the honors band and was recently named head twirler and drum major.

She took part in the UIL twirling competition, earning a top score while being named Outstanding Performer.

McDuffie is not new to twirling, having started in the third grade.

As a freshman, she applied for and was chosen as one of eight girls in the country to twirl with the University of Texas at Austin during a band performance.

She recalled it was during the third quarter of a UT rivalry game in a packed stadium with more than 100,000 people.

She couldn’t find the words to describe the feeling.

“It was s crazy to me as a high schooler to experience that,” McDuffie said.

The tall stadium, the lights at night and the sound of a college band were impressed upon her.

In order to earn a “1” rating at the state level is no easy task. Her routine was two to three minutes and included one, two and three batons, she said.

When not in school, she works with Twirls & Swirls in Nederland, as well as with twirling instructor Lori Perkins in Houston.

She twirls as intermediate and advanced skill.

She recently took part in the USTA Central Region Baton Council twirling competition in Enid, Oklahoma.

This competition required her to perform with one, two and three batons separately, in three styles and each had to be three minutes long.

McDuffie practices often, at least an hour a day, and sometimes up to two hours, she said.

As for the future, she would like to become a feature twirler for a college. Her career options remain open.

Abigail Duchamp

Duchamp is an incoming senior at Nederland High School who earned top rating in State UIL in choir and was named Outstanding Performer.

Duchamp, who has been singing her whole life, joined choir in the sixth grade.

She feels like she came out of the womb singing and has been singing ever since.

She remembers using her parent’s karaoke machine in the living room. By the first grade she joined the children’s choir at her church.

“Maybe a week after I joined they moved me to the adult choir,” Duchamp said. “I started getting private lessons from the instructor of the choir. They didn’t make us pay.”

She isn’t new to earning awards. She made State last year as a sophomore but did not earn the Outstanding Performer moniker.

In the past two years she placed high in the Texas Music Educators Association competition. She has also been invited to sing at a Lamar University showcase with top singers of Southeast Texas.

Duchamp began working toward the State competition in January and credits choir teacher Courtney Austin for getting her prepared.

“She’s the whole reason I made it this far,” Duchamp said. “She’s an incredible teacher.”

Duchamp also took private lessons from a professor at Lamar University.

It was Austin who chose the piece she felt was right for Duchamp’s vocal range as a Soprano I — Ava Maria by Franz Schubert.

The song is in Latin, which meant Duchamp had to learn how to pronounce the words correctly. The song means a lot to her and her family, as it was chosen for her by her teacher and was the reason she won.

Singing will always have a place in her heart — “it is my life and my passion; it’s like my happy place.”

She is thinking of a career in the medical field and a minor in music because she’s not giving up on music.

Duchamp is grateful for her coir teacher and her family.

“I’m so lucky to have a teacher to work with me and let me come in and work in my spare time,” she said. “I’m grateful they saw potential in me to even make this happen. I have an incredible support system. My mom and dad have supported me so much through everything in choir.”